JOHANNESBURG, October 27- A league fixture between Orlando Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs scheduled for Soweto this weekend has been postponed after South Africa and Pirates captain Senzo Meyiwa was shot dead late Sunday.
“The match will not happen on Saturday out of respect for Senzo. That is the right thing to do,” Premier Soccer League chief executive Brand de Villiers told a Johannesburg media conference.
The fixture between the two most successful and popular football clubs in the republic was guaranteed to attract a sell-out 90,000 crowd to the Soccer City stadium in Soweto.
Chiefs top the championship table with 25 points after nine matches and Pirates lie sixth, 11 points behind.
Goalkeeper Meyiwa was gunned down 30 kilometres south of Johannesburg at the home of his pop star girlfriend Kelly Khumalo after an altercation that stunned the crime-weary nation.
He also skippered Pirates, who won the premier African club championship in 1995 and were runners-up last year.
-Outrage over shooting-
South Africa’s president Jacob Zuma led a shocked nation in voicing outrage at the murder after the talismanic goalkeeper was shot dead during a home robbery.
More than 17,000 people were killed in South Africa last year, but the slaying of a popular sporting hero has stunned even this crime-weary nation.
“Words cannot express the nation’s shock at this loss,” said President Zuma, amid a national outpouring of grief and anger.
Zuma said police must “leave no stone unturned in finding his killers” and bringing them to justice.
Fighting back a flood of tears, national football coach Shakes Mashaba described Meyiwa as a “very kind person” who was the first name on his teamsheet.
Team-mates at his local club Orlando Pirates team-mates were sobbing and crying uncontrollably during a Monday team meeting, according to club officials.
Police have offered an increased reward of 250,000 rand ($23,000) for any information leading to his killer’s arrest.
Tributes to Meyiwa flooded in from across the football world.
Spain’s World Cup winning goalkeeper and captain Iker Casillas posted on his Instagram account a picture of Meyiwa after the pair had swapped jerseys, saying “Very sad for the dramatic loss of friend RIP Senzo.”
FIFA president Sepp Blatter described Meyiwa’s killing as a “senseless, tragic loss”.
Meyiwa’s South African team-mate, Doncaster Rovers-based Dean Furman, said he was “beyond devastated at the loss of our captain and friend”.
Dennis Mumble, the chief executive officer of the South African Football Association, said “the country is crying.”
This is just the latest tragedy to befall South Africa’s sporting fraternity.
South Africa is still reeling from the death of former world 800-metre champion Mbulaeni Mulaudzi who died in a car crash on Friday and the jailing of fallen Paralympic hero Oscar Pistorius for the killing of his girlfriend last year.
-Undesirable for our country-
National Police Commissioner Riah Phiyega said that with the eyes of the world again on South Africa’s high crime rate, a task team of national and provincial officers was working to quickly to close the case.
“This type of loss is undesirable for our country, this type of loss does not augur well for our brand and image out there.”
But Phiyega rejected accusations that Meyiwa’s killing was being treated differently because of the victim’s high profile.
“We believe that someone, somewhere, somehow knows something about this crime,” she said appealing to the public to come forward.
“It is alleged that two suspects entered the house and confronted the occupants, while a third suspect was outside,” said Phiyega.
After an altercation “a shot was fired, the goalkeeper was hit in the upper body and was taken to hospital, where he was declared dead on arrival”.
One cell phone was taken and the three suspects fled on foot.
Police have launched a manhunt for the suspects, described as being in their late 20s and early 30s.
– Into the limelight –
After many years in the South African football shadows, Meyiwa had a meteoric climb to fame with the Orlando Pirates.
Meyiwa played for the “Buccaneers” in Soweto Saturday and has been in outstanding form for the national team during recent 2015 Africa Cup qualifiers.
He displaced national squad goalkeeper Moeneeb Josephs as first-choice at Pirates, the only South African side to be crowned African champions.
And a recent injury to South Africa captain and goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune gave Meyiwa a chance in the national team, popularly known as Bafana Bafana (The Boys).
New national coach Mashaba not only promoted Durban-born Meyiwa to replace Khune but also made him captain of a team that have been in the doldrums for some years.
Meyiwa responded to his promotion by leading the team to victories over Sudan and Congo Brazzaville and draws with Congo Brazzaville and Nigeria, a country South Africa traditionally struggle against.
He did not concede a goal in the four matches and if South Africa defeat Sudan in eastern city Nelspruit next month they will qualify for the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations tournament.